A striking essay on AlterNet, putting the 2008 elections into a hopeful perspective:
In a nutshell – the seven things that lead to revolution, viewed through a historic perspective, as applied to the current domestic state of affairs.
1. Soaring, Then Crashing – in which a period of stability and prosperity is suddenly disrupted, the hard-won gains being squandered.
2. They Call It A Class War – in which the social contract is broken, and working classes find themselves ever more put-upon.
3. Deserted Intellectuals – in which educated people, having been alienated, make common cause with the working classes.
4. Incompetent Government – in which government mismanagement becomes awful to the point of grotesque malfeasance.
5. Gutless Wonders in the Ruling Class – in which the ruling class cannot effectively adapt and lead in the face of changing times.
6. Fiscal Irresponsibility – in which taxes are used irresponsibly.
7. Inept and Inconsistent Use of Force – in which capricious use of the country’s military/police forces leads to contempt for state power.
Also from the essay:
Way back in 1962, Caltech sociologist James C. Davies published an article in the American Sociological Review that summarized the conditions that determine how and when modern political revolutions occur. Intriguingly, Davies cited another scholar, Crane Brinton, who laid out seven “tentative uniformities” that he argued were the common precursors that set the stage for the Puritan, American, French, and Russian revolutions. As I read Davies’ argument, it struck me that the same seven stars Brinton named are now precisely lined up at midheaven over America in 2008. Taken together, it’s a convergence that creates the perfect social, economic, and political conditions for the biggest revolution since the shot heard ’round the world.
And even more interestingly: in every case, we got here as a direct result of either intended or unintended consequences of the conservatives’ war against liberal government, and their attempt to take over our democracy and replace it with a one-party plutocracy. It turns out that, historically, liberal nations make very poor grounds for revolution — but deeply conservative ones very reliably create the conditions that eventually make violent overthrow necessary. And our own Republicans, it turns out, have done a hell of a job.
Normally I’d have thought that this was a bit of an exaggerated argument – that we’re heading for a revolution of any sort. It seems more likely that we’re either maintaining the status quo or slipping slowly into worse conditions like those described in Brinton’s 7 points. That’s depressing. There’s nothing to suggest that Obama or anyone else will succeed in effecting a political revolution, and I hardly think that we’re at the stage of something equivalent to the French, American, or Russian revolutions, although the Great Depression could be a stock market crash away.
Don’t get me wrong – America would benefit greatly from such a ‘revolution’ – but too many Americans are too bone-headed, and our progressive politicians have insufficient backbone. So I’ll believe it when I see it.